A Written Bill of Rights—Dallin H. Oaks

Dallin_H._OaksCALLED UNTO LIBERTY, 20TH CENTURY SERMONS, DALLIN H. OAKS

1992


In his address, The Divinely Inspired Constitution, Dallin H. Oaks remarked concerning the written Bill of Rights within the U.S. Constitution:

This second great fundamental came by amendment, but I think Americans all look upon the Bill of Rights as part of the inspired work of the Founding Fathers. The idea of a bill of rights was not new. Once again, the inspiration was in the brilliant, practical implementation of preexisting principles. Almost six hundred years earlier, King John had subscribed the Magna Charta, which contained a written guarantee of some rights for certain of his subjects. The English Parliament had guaranteed individual rights against royal power in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Even more recently, some of the charters used in the establishment of the American colonies had written guarantees of liberties and privileges, with which the delegates were familiar.

I have always felt that the United States Constitution’s closest approach to scriptural stature is in the phrasing of our Bill of Rights. Without the free exercise of religion, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified. I also see scriptural stature in the concept and wording of the freedoms of speech and press, the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, the requirements that there must be probable cause for an arrest and that accused persons must have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and the guarantee that a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. President Ezra Taft Benson has said, “Reason, necessity, tradition, and religious conviction all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights.”

The Declaration of Independence had posited these truths to be “self-evident,” that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,” and that governments are instituted “to secure these Rights.” This inspired Constitution was established to provide a practical guarantee of these God-given rights (see D&C 101:77), and the language implementing that godly objective is scriptural to me.


Source: Dallin H. Oaks, February1992 issue of the Ensign, The Divinely Inspired Constitution. Dallin H. Oaks is a former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, former President of Brigham Young University, and currently a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,


Called Unto Liberty is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional introductory notes and commentary) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor In Chief of The Moral Liberal. Copyright © 2009-2014 Steve Farrell.